Monday, November 25, 2013

More Than I Thought To Ask For

          At the end of May I shared a post titled Because I Prayed For A Blessing , talking about my experience with answered prayer when asking God for the blessing of direction, and about my upcoming summer in Wildwood New Jersey at The Boardwalk Chapel. So much has happened since I made that post... Ha, and don't worry, I'm not under any illusion I can cram about 3 months of adventures into this post... I don't think I could do it well anyway... But I'm going to try my best and share some of what I did and how much I learned.

        Every day was an adventure and a new reminder of God's care. I got to spend every day singing,  praying as a group, and so many times laughing at the randomest things. Most importantly, I learned how to share my faith, and grew in my own... I made friends I'll never forget, and memories I hope to remember forever. (Here are some videos if you'd like to see them:  LifeHouse Skit , Sarah singing 'Blessed Redeemer' , 'Come Ye Sinners' , Wilfredo ad Josh Original Blues ,  One of the youth groups preforming 'Come Along' . )

         So let me tell you a little bit about where I was, and what I did.

        I was in Wildwood New Jersey - a place that runs pretty heavily around tourism, and has its fair share of people selling drugs, and or being drunk(Leastways during the summer). The boardwalk has a fair-like atmosphere with rides on the piers, games, junk food, and shops that sell random stuff. Right in the midst of it all is the Boardwalk Chapel, which, as we like to say, is the only free thing on the Boardwalk, haha.

   This was the 69th summer for the Boardwalk Chapel. Every night Monday – Saturday we had programs from 8:00 to about 9:30 (depending if we started on time). Every program we sang, did a few skits, and visiting pastors would give 2 sermons about 15 minutes each. Some passerby would come and sit down, others would linger just outside, while others would hurry past, or even shout 'Hail satan' or other things into the Chapel.

     We didn't do the programs all alone either, that's for sure. Most weeks we had awesome youth groups from other states helping us; They did the programs on Thursdays so we could have the night off. They also would go out witnessing with us when we went out, though sometimes they wouldn't say much during the conversations. Ha, sometimes I felt so inadequate as I went out  witnessing with them -  me being the "staffer" and so assumingly knowing what I was doing when really I didn't feel that way. "Oh God give me strength."  

         There were 15 of us on staff who lived together (The pastor and two of his sons were also on staff, but they lived in their own home. We also had James who came on and off throughout the summer to help with work projects and repair the buildings.) – most of us were between the ages of 17 and 25, though we had house parents who were older and had 3 little boys ages 1 and a half, 4 and 6. We all lived in the Dunn house, which used to be a boarding house at one point and was donated to the ministry to house the staff. The guys lived on the first floor and the girls lived on the second floor – we had a living room but if we were hanging out in the house it was always in the kitchen. There's food there. ;)

      After the programs we either had seminars on worldview or apologetics, or went out witnessing. (Sometimes we did both if we had enough time.) We'd witness until about midnight then all head back to the Dunn house, have food together, and tell each-other about our conversations. It was always so encouraging to come back and discuss how it went and we'd often pray for the people we'd witnessed to as a group.

    I'll admit it, I've been mostly in a pretty much Christian bubble before this summer. And witnessing... well, witnessing can be interesting... I've talked to drunk people, heard more swear words than I ever have before, and spoken to people who admit that they don't have hope and say that there isn't any hope in this world at all... It's hard to talk to people who act like they're okay with how broken the world is – the ones who believe “the world just is as it is”, but if religion makes us happy then, “Well that's nice. You have fun with that.”

       It's also hard to talk to the people who are so sure they are good enough for God – that their goodness outweighs their bad so if there is a God He will let them in., 'cause,“Only really bad people go to hell.”

        It's hard 'cause in many ways it hurts to see how lost they are... To often hear how life is going for them, and all they see is the pointlessness of it all. Ah yes. That hurts my heart...

         On the other-hand it's amazing to see when people get it. When they're listening and asking questions, and obviously want  the tracts – even to the point of asking, “Are you giving those out?” (That question is so exciting to me. When they ask us if they can have them that usually means they're curious and they sometimes flip through it and ask more questions. ^_^ )

        We have joy – we live in a purposeless, hopeless, searching world and when they see that joy, they want to know where it comes from. One of the guys on staff, Seth, was really excited after a good conversation with some people – so excited he couldn't contain it. Someone walking by asked him if he was alright. He was like,“Yes! I just got done talking with someone about God!” The person said, “I know about God.”  and their group ended up talking to that guy for awhile... See, the world doesn't understand radical joy - it seems so foreign... even sometimes to those in the church.

         One time I was out with 2 other staffers and we talked to this woman and her 3 daughters who all said they were Christians. The mother asked us, “How did you get to be like this? How did you become so joyful in your faith?” So we told them about how living for Jesus should change the way we live – that we shouldn't be content to go through the motions, but that our faith should be evident in our everyday lives - that though we have hard times, that we seek to trust God in them and what a difference that has made in us.
       In every encounter with people we wanted to show others that when we speak and act that it's not going through the motions - we truly care about them as individuals made by God and want them to know Him too. That is what I pray we left with them - a renewed passion to seek God and a desire for faith that changes their lives.

           I want to thank all of you who supported me in going on this trip through prayers and financial support. It was such an amazing learning experience this summer. I got to learn more about music, other worldviews, and how to witness. It was so different from my limited experience with life, and I was so blessed by the friendships and learning that I've taken away from it. Thank you for your part in making this trip everything it was. 

          If you'd like to read a blog post about this summer by another young lady on staff you can click here: Link and read Susie's post on "Missing Missions-Siblings". She wrote it exactly right... 'cause yeah, I miss them too... It's been a few months since being home but there are still days when I wish to have just one more day to be with them. We were a family. We laughed and teased - we cried and talked about life and loss. We were silly. We sang. We prayed for each other. We took walks and talked about our homes, lives, learning experiences, and our thoughts on Christ and what He'd been teaching us. Two times that are very vivid in my memory is the time several of us gathered together listening/reading poetry, and the time where we sat on the front porch at past midnight talking about Heaven... Many times we went down to the beach early in the morning to watch the sunrise and sing hymns. We didn't have to be together as much as we were, but almost without fail even on our days off we'd spend the time hanging out. We genuinely wanted to be a part of each other's lives and learn more about each other. Living with those who put being "brothers and sisters in Christ" into action is... well, it's hard for me to put into words how uplifting it was...

      I never thought to ask God to put someone like Susie on staff to be my closest friend for the summer (and stay in contact with upon returning home). I never thought to ask Him to allow me to use and share my poetry this summer. I never thought to ask Him to give me opportunities to speak in front of people. I never thought to ask Him to help me learn more confidence in singing. I never thought to ask Him to change me this summer... but He did. 

      Know what I saw this summer? I saw reminders of God's care for us in the little things (like the time we didn't have a youth group and I prayed people would come in the Chapel to fill the emptiness and God answered).  I saw Christians, firm in their faith, coming together to share the gospel, care for each other, and serve their very best in the different aspects of the ministry. I saw others who have a love for the lost and were willing to spend the summer sharing God's word. Every day I saw the love and encouragement they shared with each other and to those we came in contact with.  I saw the body of Christ in action - His hands, His feet, His touch, His voice... He is in each of us and this summer was overflowing with examples of His power and grace. May God continue to bless His work in New Jersey and around the world.

~Ophelia - Marie

          If you'd like to find out more about the Chapel and how you could become involved, you can go to their website: or click any of the previous links to go to the Facebook page. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Don't Say Goodbye - Skillet

Sorry, this blog post is kinda on a sad topic... Saying goodbye.
A friend of mine showed me the song "Say Goodbye" by Skillet, and it got me thinking about saying goodbye again, and why it hurts...
 I wrote a poem thinking about that a few months ago: Not Meant To Say Goodbye .


Sometimes you have to go searching instead of saying goodbye.

This shell was a gift to a dear friend of mine when we had to part for an undetermined amount of time.

"From Christian to Christian life is only full of temporary goodbyes..." 
That's what makes me smile, even when missing people makes me want to cry... Even as I get older, busier, and friends do the same, I remember that the friendships we have here are only a reflection of what we will have in glory... Until then I have to trust that the friends I love belong to God first and He can take our friendships where He wills.

~Ophelia - Marie

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dreamer - Short Story


    Sarlun woke up to the sound of her screaming. Before his half-awake mind could register what was happening, he flung himself out of bed, fists raised. Her high, terrified screams easily pierced through the thin walls that separated their rooms. An eerie pause of silence filled air for a few seconds, then the sound of sobs came from the other room.

     Moonlight shown dimly in from his small window, enough for him to take in everything at a glance. Sarlun's shoulders slumped as he came fully awake. He sat down hard on the edge of the bed as she screamed again. 

    It'd been two weeks since last time... he had hoped – No. He had known... Perhaps it was selfish that he had tried to make himself believe she had been fine this past week since she hadn't woken him...but when you can't do anything, sometimes your mind tries to tell you things are getting better.

     Another sob came, then faded into low whimpers that could barely be heard. Sarlun sighed. He should try to go back to sleep; tomorrow was going to long enough without him staying up half the night.

      He cared too much to do that.

      He stood and crossed the room. Quietly opening his door, he walked into the dark hallway. Her door was cracked, just barely, and he pushed it open.

     His chest clenched at the sight of her.

     Oh Kalla.

     The small girl lay on her bed, curled in a fetal position. The patchwork blanket was twisted around her body and her pale hair was wet with sweat. She whimpered again and the sound rose into a wail before abruptly cutting off. Tears tracked down her face and her hands grasped fistfuls of the blanket.

      Sarlun crept silently into the room and took the three legged stool from the far corner. Placing it in the center of the room, he sat on it and took a shaky breath. She cried out again, this time quieter, and he clenched the tip of his tongue between his teeth. A familiar ache welled up in his stomach as he watched her... He was helpless....

     "My dear little sister..." The whispered words hung in the air, and he took in another shuddering breath.  It hurt to watch her.

   She had been eight years old when he found her almost a year and a half ago - a thin, dirty, wide eyed orphan who had tried to steal his allowance from his pocket. He had been thirteen – a sidetracked boy in the market, trying to find his mother the perfect gift for her birthday. That day he brought his mother home a daughter, and gained himself a little sister.

     At first his parents had tried to convince Kalla to sleep in one of the nicer rooms in the large new addition, but when Kalla found out Sarlun's room was in the attic she wanted to sleep there. They set her up in the little room next to his, though they made it clear that if she wanted to be downstairs in the room next to theirs they would be glad to have her.

     That first night had been much like this one. Sarlun had woke up to the sound of her screaming, only that time he had run straight into her room and tried to shake her awake.

      She had sat up and looked at him with clear, tear filled eyes and smacked him hard across the face. As he gaped at her in stunned silence, she had hissed in a trembling voice, “Never wake me from my dreams.” Then she had started crying again, clinging to him and whispering, “I hate to sleep, but I must dream. I must! I must! I must!” He had awkwardly wrapped his arms around her as she sobbed into his shoulder. “They need me. I have to dream!”

       A Dreamer... not many would trust another with that kind of secret. Maybe it was because she was young, maybe it was because she was a girl, but for whatever reason Sarlun was not afraid.

    “I'll never tell,” he had whispered into her hair.

    Then, because he hadn't known what else to do, he sang to her the song his mother used to when he was small.

“Rest, little one,
Quiet your cries.
Listen to the sound
Of gentle lullabies.
Tomorrow is coming
So lay down your fears.
May the light of the dawning,
Dry all of your tears.”

    They never talked about that first night, and he never woke her again... Yet on the nights she woke him, he came into her room and sang until her cries softened.

     Even one as powerful and distrusted as a Dreamer deserved someone to comfort them.

~Ophelia - Marie

 (If you'd like to read the rest of the song, you can see it here: Lullaby Rest)

Copyright © 2013 Ophelia M. Flowers